Ngovi Kitau: Mungiki: Talk to them or name them a terrorist group

THE SECURITY OF KENYANS IS guaranteed in the Constitution. Therefore, the Government should be concerned about the recurrent offensive carried out by the outlawed Mungiki sect, which have created a security nightmare.

Last week, the sect members successfully organised violent demonstrations for four days in Nairobi and other main towns.

Security forces were once again caught flat-footed and 30 lives and a great deal of property destroyed.

As usual, the Government responded by warning Mungiki sect followers to stop their destructive activities or risk being wiped out. The newly-appointed tough talking Internal Security minister, just like his predecessor, said the Government will never negotiate with Mungiki or any other terror group.

We should have known by now that this big talk and chest-thumping does not scare the Mungiki, and is not going to eradicate them. If we are going to stop further wanton destruction of life and property, then we have to choose between the only two choices available.

THE FIRST CHOICE IS DIALOGUE. There are two good reasons for this. One, our security forces do not appear to be a match for the educated, skilled and motivated sect members.

Two, the fact that Mungiki have successfully launched the Kenya National Youth Alliance as their political wing shows that they have an ideology and an agenda.

The other option available to us, which will take time to implement, is to adopt a more professional approach in handling Mungiki affairs and officially declare them a domestic terrorist organisation.

A review of several definitions of terrorism confirms Mungiki is a modern terror group just like the Ku Klux Klan, Red Brigades, Aum Shinrikyo, Hizbollah, or al-Qaeda. The most commonly accepted scholastic definition of terrorism is the 1992 one by the United Nations.

UN defined terrorism as “an anxiety-inspiring method of repeated violent action, employed by (semi-) clandestine individual, group or state actors, for idiosyncratic, criminal or political reasons, whereby — in contrasts to assassination — the direct targets of violence are not the main targets.”

Terrorism is also defined under Title 22 of the US Code, section 2656f (d). The term “terrorism” means politically motivated violence perpetrated against non-combatant targets by sub-national groups or clandestine agents.

And according to FBI, “terrorism is the unlawful use of force and violence against persons or property to intimidate or coerce a government, the civilian population, or any segment thereof, in furtherance of political or social objectives.”

Finally, the US Department of Defence defines terrorism as “The calculated use of unlawful violence or threat of unlawful violence to inculcate fear, intended to coerce or to intimidate governments or societies in the pursuit of goals that are political, religious or ideological”.

From these definitions, the five common elements of terrorism are: coercive, deliberate, dynamic, political and psychological. Mungiki has excelled in all of them.

In this second option, there are two advantages of officially declaring Mungiki a domestic terrorist group. To start with, the problem will be given priority and resources will be allocated.

Secondly, the responsibility of monitoring and acting against the group will shift from the police to the National Counter-terrorism Intelligence Unit.

This is important because the kind of investigation done by police is based on physical evidence of an offence after it has occurred.

But counter-terrorism intelligence is primarily concerned with the identification and stopping of terrorist activities before they happen.

NCIU WILL PROACTIVELY DEFINE Mungiki, develop psychological and social profiles of its followers, identify their ideologies, and establish their structure.

This means that information can be released to the public domain in terms of Mungiki tactical structure and followers’ level of commitment.

For once, the public will know the Mungiki leadership — people responsible for planning, organising, staffing and controlling the group; cadres — people in charge of group surveillance, intelligence, executions and so on; supporters — politicians in and out of Parliament and other financiers; and finally, sympathisers — people not fully committed, but who sympathise with its goals.

It is this last group which provides a reservoir for new recruits.

This exposure will help to curtail their activities. Therefore, either of the two choices is viable.

Mr Kitau is the managing director, Bruce Trucks and Equipment (EA) Ltd.

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